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Why So S.A.D?: How to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

As we enter the last month of the year, we are reminded of what this season means to us and those around us. December is often referred to as the most wonderful time of the year, but to some this season brings negative emotions instead of glad tidings. Seasonal Depression is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons; it begins and ends at about the same times every year. 10 to 20 percent of people with major depressive disorder experience seasonal affective disorder. S.A.D.  is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. The fall and winter months can increase feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, and loss of interest, feelings we might already be feeling while being on campus. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of seasonal depression due to the fact that women and young adults are at heightened risk for S.A.D, and I emphasize this fact for the Hampton University student body due to the high percentage of young adult women on campus. Signs and symptoms may increase from mild to severe over the course of the condition. Although this is a serious disorder, a milder version of S.A.D can be experienced and it is commonly referenced as “winter blues”. Here is what to look for if you or someone you know might be experiencing seasonal depression.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Loss of interest and social withdrawal
  • Having low energy
  • Changes in sleep, appetite
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Causes

Although the specific cause of seasonal affective disorder remains unknown, factors that can contribute to feelings of depression are your biological clock being disrupted by day light savings time, a drop in serotonin ( a chemical that affects mood), or a decrease in melatonin levels that affects sleep and mood.

TIPS FOR bATTLING S.A.D

Here are some useful tips for combatting seasonal affective disorder or to get you through the “winter blues”

Do something you enjoy. Even though it might be hard for you to even think about getting out of bed and you are constantly overwhelmed by negative emotions, it’s important to try to do something that you enjoy. Whether it’s binging your comfort show or watching your favorite movie, listening to new music from your favorite artist, or revisiting that hobby that you dropped; sometimes a positive outlet is just what you need to add a little sunshine to your day.

Reach out for support. Share your feelings with the people you trust. Be honest about your needs and try not to isolate yourself. Spend time with family and friends, Look for a therapy group, but don’t go through this time alone. It’s okay to talk to a doctor or mental health professional if you need more help than you thought. This is especially important if you notice a negative change in your daily habits, you turn to harmful substances for comfort or relaxation, or you feel hopeless or think about suicide. 

Stay active. Keep your mind and body active. Fresh air can make a huge difference on helping you feel better, go for a stroll or a jog, exercising is known to release dopamine, which is sometimes referred to as the “happy hormone”. Being outside and soaking up the vitamin D will have a noticeable impact on your mood. Remain active in your social life too, don’t miss that next club meeting or sit that event out because it could be just what you need to get your groove back.

Self Care. Not everyone has the luxury of a support system, and this can even be the cause of your seasonal depression, but it’s important that you treat yourself with the same kindness you want from or show to others. To help yourself get through this tough time consider keeping a record of your emotions through journaling, the highs and the lows. Come up with a routine and stick to it, start the day with opening the curtains and letting the sunlight in, show gratitude through prayer, do your work, exercise often, stay hydrated, and eat foods that nourish your body. Finally, just treat yourself with the same love and compassion you would give to your family or a friend. 

It is necessary to take Seasonal Affective Disorder as seriously as you would any other health condition or mental illness even if it only happens during certain time of the year. Symptoms can vary between mild or severe and that’s why it is important to become aware of the disorder and be proactive with measures to keep seasonal depression away or controlled during the fall/winter season. Check on your family and friends and make sure that they are also doing what’s best for their emotional and physical well-being throughout this winter season.

more rESOURCES

Text HOME To The Crisis Text Line At 741741.

Serenity Smith

Hampton U '24

Hi!! I'm a second year student at Hampton University majoring in psychology with a premedical concentration from Prince George’s County, Maryland. I'm passionate about mental health and writing. My most creative outlet is writing poetry, but I have a newfound love of writing articles about topics important to me.
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